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Crank Up the Christian Hatred

I’ve already mentioned that Jessica Ahlquist won her lawsuit over a mural with a prayer on it at her high school. Predictably, the hatred is pouring forth from many Christians — you know, the ones who claim to follow the guy who told his followers to turn the other cheek and love those that hurt them.

Like this asshole, who unleashed a torrent of misogyny and threats on her:

I raped an atheist

@jvezina022 hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face

And this asshole:

Hey guys I fucking hate atheists too @RachelKnight @jvezina022

You know the world is coming to an end when people like @jessicaahlquist are teaming up with occupywallstreet to ruin our world. @jvezina022

I HATE ATHEISTS AND LIBERALS COME FUCKING FIND ME WEIRDOS

When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists

@jessicaahlquist @notdante Dante her measly atheist ass can’t afford a lawyer and no public defender will even take that bitch seriously

I honestly think I’d rather be a Satan worshiper than an atheist…

And this one:

“@jvezina022: @jessicaahlquist I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”

@DritaDavanzo hi me and @jvezina022 are being harassed by a bunch of atheist fucks. Can you take a wrench to their throats for us?

And then there’s this dumbass:

for the record, when you die you will NOT grow into a tree or some other bullshit athiests believe in

And it isn’t just on Twitter. The comments on the Providence Journal’s article about it are absolutely vile. Someone even published her home address, where she will undoubtedly be harassed — or worse. This is why I want to make a documentary about the plaintiffs in church/state cases and the bullying and often violence they almost always face from those loving Christians.

Comments

  1. MikeMa says

    Police shouldn’t have any shortage of leads if Jessica’s harassment escalates. Christian crap.

  2. heddle says

    I truly despise, with what I hope is a righteous anger but what I suspect is garden-varietry revulsion, those Christians who made such hate-filled comments. It demonstrates the truth, yet again, that the church has nothing to fear from atheists–they are impotent in their ability to harm us–we can only harm ourselves. One of these vile comments does more damage than a sea of gnu atheists. What an utter embarrassment, disgrace and humiliation.

  3. exdrone says

    What? We don’t reincarnate as trees? WTF. Well, that’s it for atheism. What else ya got? What about this hate-filled Christianity? Bullying, beatings, rape – they seem to have a lot of social events.

  4. Jeremy Shaffer says

    When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists

    Is it possible to run afoul of Godwin if you simply quote someone?

  5. Michael Heath says

    This one has levels of oblivious irony:

    I honestly think I’d rather be a Satan worshiper than an atheist

    Re the desire to see this young lady and others suffer eternal punishment:

    Another predominately oblivious position by Christians who believe in the biblical judgments of eternal punishment is the unimaginable evil required by God to implement such a process if this were true. Where these Christians celebrate a supposed god with this nature and also desire some people suffer this fate. I remain befuddled they can attend churches who believe in eternal punishment as written about in the Bible and celebrate the existence of such a god.

    I can understand believing in and therefore fearing and mourning the existence of such a god; and therefore carrying the morally upright burden of warning their fellow humans. And given this supposed god is also all-knowing, we know faking a celebration of this god’s supposed nature in order to remain moral and save oneself from this hell is impossible, meaning these Christian believers have no rational, moral, and ethical reason to celebrate the existence nature of such a god.

    Avoidance even of that which they believe and promote to others runs deep. At what point should we claim such a celebration of this sort of nature and condemnation is itself demonstrably evil? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and don’t find many criticisms on this topic in spite of the incredible implications of such beliefs. This aspect of Christianity needs far more debate and exposure. We empirically know many church members do not believe in the biblical judgement as expressed in the Bible, even from those who contradict this position by claiming biblical inerrancy. That’s just another example of garden-variety denialism by people who specialize in denying reality, but the thing itself needs far more light.

  6. Aquaria says

    It demonstrates the truth, yet again, that the church has nothing to fear from atheists–they are impotent in their ability to harm us–we can only harm ourselves. One of these vile comments does more damage than a sea of gnu atheists. What an utter embarrassment, disgrace and humiliation.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    heddle, you’re so funny!

    Oh–wait. You aren’t kidding, are you?

    So your being deluded isn’t limited to believing in sky fairies?

    What a surprise!

  7. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    I truly despise, with what I hope is a righteous anger but what I suspect is garden-varietry revulsion, those Christians who made such hate-filled comments. It demonstrates the truth, yet again, that the church has nothing to fear from atheists–they are impotent in their ability to harm us–we can only harm ourselves. One of these vile comments does more damage than a sea of gnu atheists. What an utter embarrassment, disgrace and humiliation.

    Your post rings hollow for two reasons:
    1) Your refusal to own to up to the reality and I think, your own personal responsibility, that it is your form of biblical inerrant beliefs that enables, justifies, and maximizes people who believe and think like this.

    2) That you too celebrate the existence of a god who promises to punish eternally. These people’s very role model is no different than the OT god who hates and the NT god who promises eternal punishment and to bring a sword. Yes it requires the avoid certain biblical verses to so, but there’s also ample verses that also support such a position.

    Whether you like it or not heddle, you are far more closely associated with this reprehensible behavior than you are to those who condemn such beliefs. As I wrote in my previous post, believing such, mourning this perception, and working to save others because of this belief is a moral high ground. But celebrating such a reality as you do should have us seriously considering whether such behavior is also demonstrably evil. I do not yet weigh in because I’ve just started considering this and have read little on the topic to weigh others’ good arguments.

  8. says

    Jeez, guys. Heddle offers a sincere condemnation of this, as I’m sure the overwhelming majority of Christians do, and you jump all over him like it’s his fault, as if the mere fact that he believes in God too makes him responsible for the behavior of everyone who bears the same label. That’s exactly the sort of thing we condemn when the wingnuts do it concerning violent and barbaric Muslims. Let’s not engage in the same behavior here.

  9. MikeMa says

    @heddle,
    I appreciate the sentiments against the more revolting members of you group. The part I do not understand is why you think atheists are out to harm you. We may try to extoll reason and evidence against the unprovability of your mythology but while we hope more people see the light of reason, we do not attempt to use force against you. It is the entitled christers that push discrimination and hatred toward a host of others in which atheists usually get top billing.

  10. thomaspenn says

    Tear literally welled in my eyes when I read and then stared at the first statement saying “I raped an atheist” I know worse things are said on the internet, probably every day. But the cold hatred and proud admission of violently violating another person(even if hopefully untrue) depresses the hell out of me. This is especially true because Jessica is just the messenger. If you don’t like what the constitution says or how it’s interpreted take it up with its writers or the current and past supreme court justices who have interpreted it. Don’t take it out on the person who said “Hey, that’s illegal. You shouldn’t do that.”

    From Michael Heath @8

    I can understand believing in and therefore fearing and mourning the existence of such a god; and therefore carrying the morally upright burden of warning their fellow humans.

    That’s a very good point. I’ve relatedly argued that the easiest way out of the problem of evil is to admit that god isn’t omni-benevolent. It’s obviously false from his supposed writings, and it preserves the rest of the dogma. Believers can then argue that god is all powerful, and all knowing, and you should sincerely worship him because he will fuck your shit up otherwise. That’s at least a rational and defensible argument.

  11. heddle says

    MikeMa,

    The part I do not understand is why you think atheists are out to harm you.

    I don’t. My point is that even if they wanted to, which as a general rule I do not believe, they can’t–so no Christian should ever fear atheism or atheists. Only Christians can harm Christianity, as evidenced by the likes of those Christians spewing hate-filled comments about the removal of the prayer banner. Christians behaving badly is the only risk the church faces– past, present or future.

  12. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Let’s not engage in the same behavior here.

    Do you not think it worthy to figure out why such behavior exists and how its become socially acceptable to the point it influences our public policy? To the point it’s a large aspect of the majoritarian position in most of geographical areas of the country?

    Ed writes:

    That’s exactly the sort of thing we condemn when the wingnuts do it concerning violent and barbaric Muslims.

    I strongly disagree the two are analogous. That’s because moderate Muslims not only condemn such behavior, they actively seek to minimize such beliefs that justify Muslims becoming terrorists. Heddle celebrates the existence and nature of a god who will condemn those eternally. He worships at a church that promotes such beliefs as what we condemn here. The fact these people are acting abhorrently and he’s condemning it is obviously better than lauding their behavior, but that doesn’t take one far given their behavior replicates the very behavior their god promises to inflict on many of us, a belief which heddle celebrates rather than mourns. I find such a position worthy of debate.

    I’ll back off, it’s your blog and I sincerely respect you set the rules. But I think the reason you want us to not take this tack doesn’t directly correspond to the actual argument I’m making.

  13. raven says

    I honestly think I’d rather be a Satan worshiper than an atheist…

    Probably this person is a satan worshipper. I’ve never been able to tell the difference between satanists and fundie xians.

    1. Worship a Sky Monster check.

    2. Lie continuously check.

    3. Religion based on pure hate check.

    4. Practice human child sacrifice check.

    About the only difference is that satanists more or less don’t exist while fundie xians do.

  14. Taz says

    We don’t really need an incident like this to point out Christian hypocrisy. Throughout the centuries Christians have supported myriad wars and acts of violence that clearly contradict the teachings of Jesus. Christians aren’t unique in supporting violence or being hypocrites, of course. But it always cracks me up when people who claim to be good Christians are in favor of raining death and destruction on people they’ve never meant.

  15. KG says

    It demonstrates the truth, yet again, that the church has nothing to fear from atheists–they are impotent in their ability to harm us – heddle

    *snortle*

    Right, that’s why, as soon as it became possible for atheists to argue their case without being tortured and killed by your co-religionists, the decline of Christianity set in across Europe; and why it accelerated as doing so became socially acceptable. In the USA, only the first of these stages has been reached, so the majority still think atheists are baby-eating Satanists, and Christianity largely retains its hold.

  16. heddle says

    Michael Heath,

    I think Ed’s comment was rhetorical. I don’t think he actually is telling you or anyone else not to come after me if that is your inclination.

    On the other hand, I didn’t respond to your comment because for once I didn’t want to launch a new side-thread.

    But on the other hand, I also found your post provocative, so I used it in the newest post on my blog. If you are inclined you can answer there, or paste my question to you back here, or ignore it altogether.

  17. MikeMa says

    @heddle,
    I do think that christians (and muslims and jews for that matter) have the capability to harm their respective religions far more effectively with the vile and hateful and hypocritical remarks and actions than any other force.

    Atheists do not act as a single force (outside of PZ’s poll breaking activities) to accomplish atheistic goals. We act for reason and truth based on evidence. That may look like group action but on the ground it is the individual efforts that matter. We use these blogs and other venues to share ideas but we do not deify our thinkers. We learn from them and incorporate their best ideas into our own. Our lack of cohesive effort may make progress slow but the end game is certain – reason will prevail.

  18. The Christian Cynic says

    Michael Heath (to heddle):

    Your refusal to own to up to the reality and I think, your own personal responsibility, that it is your form of biblical inerrant beliefs that enables, justifies, and maximizes people who believe and think like this.

    What “biblical inerrant belief” does so? As a Christian who doesn’t hold to inerrancy, I’d love to hear what premise you base this assertion on.

    That you too celebrate the existence of a god who promises to punish eternally. These people’s very role model is no different than the OT god who hates and the NT god who promises eternal punishment and to bring a sword. Yes it requires the avoid certain biblical verses to so, but there’s also ample verses that also support such a position.

    Again, I don’t really subscribe to the traditional view of hell, but if you believe in eternal (i.e. unending) punishment, that doesn’t mean that 1) you wish it upon anyone or 2) you revel in someone’s eternal fate. Those simply do not follow from the belief. Anyone who does either (1) or (2) is not following the belief to its logical extension – they’re just being assholes.

    That’s because moderate Muslims not only condemn such behavior, they actively seek to minimize such beliefs that justify Muslims becoming terrorists. […] The fact these people are acting abhorrently and he’s condemning it is obviously better than lauding their behavior, but that doesn’t take one far given their behavior replicates the very behavior their god promises to inflict on many of us, a belief which heddle celebrates rather than mourns. I find such a position worthy of debate.

    This is the fundamental problem with the “moderates” argument: enough is never enough. Why can’t we instead say that the people who espouse hatred and take it from words to actions are the ones responsible for their own advocacy and actions and not the people who are opposed to those things? This is so elementary that I’m amazed to see intelligent people arguing otherwise.

  19. thomaspenn says

    To The Christian Cynic @24

    Michael Heath said “That you too celebrate the existence of a god who promises to punish eternally.” and you respond with “if you believe in eternal (i.e. unending) punishment, that doesn’t mean that 1) you wish it upon anyone or 2) you revel in someone’s eternal fate.” which completely misses the point. Theists (who accept the doctrine of eternal punishment) worship and glorify a being who commits a horrendous atrocity through eternally torturing people who do things he doesn’t like. They claim that this being is omni-benevolent and that all of his actions are good by definition, therefore they are complicit in defending his moral atrocities.

    The doctrine of hell is evil. Any being that implemented eternal punishment for finite sins is also evil. Celebrating and worshiping such a being means inherently accepting and/or defending evil, which is itself evil.

  20. harold says

    Heddle, I agree with a surprisingly high percentage of your comment here.

    I truly despise, with what I hope is a righteous anger but what I suspect is garden-varietry revulsion, those Christians who made such hate-filled comments.

    That’s good.

    It demonstrates the truth, yet again, that the church has nothing to fear from atheists–they are impotent in their ability to harm us–

    This part has caused some confusion. Some people seem to be reading “harm” as “persuade”. Clearly, many religious people become atheists, so if you read it that way, the statement is false.

    If you read “harm” as “physically or psychologically harm”, there is a problem, too. Most non-religious people don’t want to physically harm or psychologically traumatize religious people. I would like to persuade you that you don’t need your religion (for full disclosure I don’t self-identify as “atheist” because I don’t want to be mistaken for a conference-attending “movement atheist”), but only in a non-harming way.

    we can only harm ourselves. One of these vile comments does more damage than a sea of gnu atheists.

    This is incredibly true.

    What an utter embarrassment, disgrace and humiliation.

    That is an appropriate response.

    If it will make you feel any better, I feel the same way as a member of the same species as people who behave like this.

  21. The Christian Cynic says

    thomaspenn: You have to believe in eternal punishment to believe in a god who punishes eternally. I sort of thought that was an obvious point.

  22. The Christian Cynic says

    Scratch the last comment: I partially misread and partially took the statement to apply to me personally. But even so, acknowledging the existence of a god who punishes eternally does not lead to reveling in that punishment. It simply does not follow.

  23. thomaspenn says

    The Christian Cynic @28, have I no idea what you are trying to say. Are you looking for an atheist gold star because you personally don’t believe in eternal punishment? Michael Heath wasn’t arguing about your personal beliefs; No one was.

    The doctrine of eternal punishment is a fairly mainstream Christian belief. Nearly 60% of U.S. citizens believe in hell, so it’s not some strawman.

  24. thomaspenn says

    Christian Cynic @9

    “But even so, acknowledging the existence of a god who punishes eternally does not lead to reveling in that punishment. It simply does not follow.”

    Actually it certainly does logically follow since everything god does is good and worthy of celebration and worship. He is perfect; His actions are perfect, therefore sending people to hell is perfect. Perfect means there is nothing possibly better. If good things are worth celebrating, then perfect things are doubly worth celebrating. Sure, you can hope people change, so that they don’t deserve to go to hell, but for those who deserve it, there is no better option (i.e., it’s perfect), and the devout certainly should celebrate such perfect justice. Why wouldn’t you? Oh, and in your explanation remember if there is any problem at all with sending deserving people to hell, then it isn’t perfect, and that means that God is not perfect either since he’s the one doing it.

    It’s only modern sensibilities that have led to cognitive dissonance on the subject of eternal punishment. Christian theologians for a long time did revel in the torment of the damned.

  25. KG says

    Christian Cynic,

    I’m sure he’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but IIRC from earlier encounters, heddle is not only a believer in hell, but a predestinarian: God created some people predestined to be eternally tormented. Worshipping a being of such vileness is itself thoroughly vile.

  26. heddle says

    KG #21,

    *snortle*

    Right, that’s why, as soon as it became possible for atheists to argue their case without being tortured and killed by your co-religionists, the decline of Christianity set in across Europe; and why it accelerated as doing so became socially acceptable. In the USA, only the first of these stages has been reached, so the majority still think atheists are baby-eating Satanists, and Christianity largely retains its hold.

    Snortle? Really?

    In addition to being flat-out wrong, you are mistaking quantity for quality, and assuming that a reduction in membership roles is bad for the church. As I have said many times, for every person emboldened by the reduction in the stigma– for every person who stops simply taking up space in a pew–for every such person I would like to thank the marquee new atheists personally. It’s a win-win.

    Case in point, your example: the Europeans. It is true that their numbers are greatly reduced. It is also true that some of the most biblically knowledgable and faithful Christians I encounter are Europeans, especially in the college-age and a bit older age bracket–more or less the twenty-somethings. Like in mathematics and science, they are, on average, operating at a higher level than their Yankee brethren.

  27. uzza says

    All this God shit is irrelevant BS. Very simply, displaying that poster is against the law. Disobeying the judge’s order to take it down is against the law.
    We have here a large group of people in the USA who think they do not need to obey the laws of the USA, and furthermore that those who do obey the laws of the USA are their enemy.
    What does that make them?

  28. MikeMa says

    I’d point out that European and Asian students are routinely exceeding American students academic achievement for a variety of reasons. One is fundamentalist christian objections to science curricula and an insistence on pushing religious crap in its place. Lawsuits against constitutional mandates like the recent one in RI aren’t helping schools provide a good education either.

  29. matty1 says

    That’s exactly the sort of thing we condemn when the wingnuts do it concerning violent and barbaric Muslims.

    I strongly disagree the two are analogous. That’s because moderate Muslims not only condemn such behavior, they actively seek to minimize such beliefs that justify Muslims becoming terrorists.

    I’m not following here, lets break it down to the two possibilities I can think of.

    1. The beliefs that moderates seek to minimize are ones that distinguish militants from moderates and motivate militancy, i.e a duty to commit violent jihad.If this is the case then Heddle has condemned the analogous beliefs (ones that separate him from the commenters and motivate them), in fact his blog is full of arguments that Christians ought not to be seeking political domination.

    2. The beliefs that moderates seek to minimize are ones shared by most Muslims that are unpleasant but not a call to action, i.e that Allah will punish unbelievers. This is the explanation that fits best to your criticism of Heddle but then we face the problem that it simply isn’t true moderate Muslims try to minimise these beliefs as part of their condemnation of terrorism.

    So which is it, should Heddle be condeming views he doesn’t share with these commenters in which case he does, or should he be condeming views he does share in which case you are asking him to go beyond the analogous behaviour from Muslim moderates.

    Either way I think Ed’s analogy holds.

  30. thomaspenn says

    heddle @33

    Europe may be a good example of your addition by subtraction theory, but in the U.S. it doesn’t appear to be the best and the brightest who are remaining in the fold. Non-Christians are more likely to be college graduates or have post-graduate degrees.

  31. MikeMa says

    Dan4,
    Not sure what raven is referring to but the recent case in Brazil (I think) where christian leaders threatened (and followed through) to excommunicate doctors, and a preteen pregnant girl when those doctors performed an abortion on her to save her life. No such condemnation of the father who impregnated her.

    Sounds like the church would have sacrificed her to their ignorant dogma. There are other such cases.

  32. heddle says

    thomaspenn,

    Europe may be a good example of your addition by subtraction theory, but in the U.S. it doesn’t appear to be the best and the brightest who are remaining in the fold. Non-Christians are more likely to be college graduates or have post-graduate degrees.

    That is because, to some extent at least, the first to be freed from the peer/familial/cultural pressure of declaring Christianity are the educated. Playing pop psychology here, but it seems reasonable that educated people are self-confident. As such, they are more willing to act on their disbelief without fear of facing a stigma.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if you want to look at what the numbers would be like across all groups (rich, poor, educated, not, black, yellow, brown, white, male female, gay, straight) if everyone was free of societal and cultural pressure to declare Christianity, look at the ~5% or so number of the National Academy of Sciences. That is probably a good first-order guess.

  33. The Christian Cynic says

    thomaspenn:

    Are you looking for an atheist gold star because you personally don’t believe in eternal punishment? Michael Heath wasn’t arguing about your personal beliefs; No one was.

    I’m going to assume you didn’t see my quick follow-up before responding, since I noted that I initially commented a little too quickly. But in my defense, your wording was a little ambiguous: “Theists (who accept the doctrine of eternal punishment) worship and glorify a being…” at first glance looked like you were suggesting that all theists accept that doctrine (to get grammatical for a moment, parentheticals are generally treated like nonrestrictive clauses, whereas you meant it restrictively), which is largely why I commented as I did @28. I backtracked somewhat in the next comment to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Actually it certainly does logically follow since everything god does is good and worthy of celebration and worship. He is perfect; His actions are perfect, therefore sending people to hell is perfect. Perfect means there is nothing possibly better.

    Let’s establish what we’re talking about: I have been arguing that Christians who believe in eternal punishment are not obligated to either wish punishment on another person (which denotes judgment) or revel in someone else’s damnation. The latter involves not only approval but satisfaction and enjoyment. To that end, I can approve of an action without enjoying it, e.g. affirming a judge’s sentence for a serial murderer while still regretting that the sentence had to be given. There is Biblical precedent for this, even: Ezekiel 18:23 and 2 Peter 3:9, at minimum.

    To get more specific on your logical argument, you have a false implicit premise: “All perfect actions are worthy of celebration and worship.” I deny, for one, that any actions are worthy of worship (how do you worship an action?), and not every correct action is worthy of celebration.

    A larger point: I think the statements, made by a few commenters, about believing in a god who eternally punishes humans being immoral are unhelpful to the question at hand, which is whether or not the kind of abuse described in the OP is a logical extension of the belief in eternal punishment. Let’s not confuse issues here.

  34. ehmm says

    The Henry Neufeld essay is pretty good. He makes particular sense here:

    Jesus said to respond in a loving and kind manner when you are persecuted. There’s an Iranian pastor on death row because he will not deny Christ. He’s being persecuted. A young woman was given 40 lashes for converting to Christianity in the Sudan. She is persecuted.

    But pampered Americans who have to pray in their homes, their churches, in restaurants, on the sidewalks, and in many, many non-governmentally sponsored events? Oh the deprivation! Oh the sorrow! Doubtless God will no longer hear us.

    Well said.

    Regarding tone (vis-a-vis Heddle), I enjoy reading some of the more spirited, clever comments on these threads. However, we don’t need to reflexively “release the hounds” at sensible comments from whom we can make common cause, despite differences in world view. Leave the keyboard tough-guy act to the clowns on twitter.

  35. KG says

    heddle,

    In addition to being flat-out wrong

    I notice you don’t specify how I’m wrong, let alone provide any evidence. Par for the course.

    It is true that their numbers are greatly reduced. It is also true that some of the most biblically knowledgable and faithful Christians I encounter are Europeans, especially in the college-age and a bit older age bracket–more or less the twenty-somethings. Like in mathematics and science, they are, on average, operating at a higher level than their Yankee brethren. – heddle

    Yeah, yeah. Keep on whistling in the dark, heddle. There is no sign whatever of the collapse of Christianity in Europe coming to an end or even slowing down.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if you want to look at what the numbers would be like across all groups (rich, poor, educated, not, black, yellow, brown, white, male female, gay, straight) if everyone was free of societal and cultural pressure to declare Christianity, look at the ~5% or so number of the National Academy of Sciences. That is probably a good first-order guess.

    More evidence-free bilge. You’re just pulling this stuff out of your arse.

  36. thomaspenn says

    The Christian Cynic @41

    No, I hadn’t read your follow-up when I posted that.

    The biblical quotes that you provide don’t actually support your point that the devout should regret the fate of the wicked.

    Ezekial 18:23

    Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

    That just says God is happy when wicked people repent, and he hopes they do repent before they die. It does not say he regrets what he does to them in response to their wickedness.

    “2 Peter 9

    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    This again says that God is patient and hopes you repent, but says nothing about regretting their fate if they die without repenting.

    Both of these quotes at best lament the fact that people are wicked and therefore deserve eternal punishment. There is no regret expressed for their fate given their wicked action and lack of repentance. I actually tried to address this sentiment when I said “Sure, you can hope people change, so that they don’t deserve to go to hell, but for those who deserve it, there is no better option (i.e., it’s perfect)” I also don’t understand why non-inerrantist would quote the Bible when we are discussing a purely logic based argument anyway.

    You further argue:

    To get more specific on your logical argument, you have a false implicit premise: “All ,perfect actions are worthy of celebration and worship.” I deny, for one, that any actions are worthy of worship (how do you worship an action?), and not every correct action is worthy of celebration.

    I’ll grant you that actions aren’t worshiped. Sorry for any confusion. The premise certainly isn’t false, though. You seem to imply that you understand this by changing “perfect” to “correct” in your response. Correct actions can have regrettable results, but perfect ones by definition cannot. If we changed “celebrated” to “praised” is it more obvious?

    Finally, I don’t think we are confusing issue. We are just discussing a related issue.

  37. thomaspenn says

    KG, I think you should lay off heddle a little bit. If he wants a world where only 5% of the population is Christian, then I say we should support him.

  38. heddle says

    KG,

    More evidence-free bilge. You’re just pulling this stuff out of your arse.

    Your original post was

    Right, that’s why, as soon as it became possible for atheists to argue their case without being tortured and killed by your co-religionists, the decline of Christianity set in across Europe; and why it accelerated as doing so became socially acceptable. In the USA, only the first of these stages has been reached, so the majority still think atheists are baby-eating Satanists, and Christianity largely retains its hold.

    and then

    Yeah, yeah. Keep on whistling in the dark, heddle. There is no sign whatever of the collapse of Christianity in Europe coming to an end or even slowing down.

    Why I must apologize! I did not follow your model. Looking again, I am overwhelmed by the evidence you have provided. The links are numerous. The footnotes informative. The references solid and voluminous. There is no pot-kettle-black here. No sir. You didn’t provide assertions without evidence and then accuse me of the same crime. That would be unthinkable.

  39. slc1 says

    Re KG @ #43

    I think Mr. KG is misinterpreting Prof. Heddle’s comment relative to the NAS. In fact, the number of members of the NAS who consider themselves theists is somewhere between 5 and 14 percent, depending on the way the question is asked (thus Neil Tyson in a presentation in 2006 stated the 14% number). The rest of the membership consists of non-believers of one sort or another.

  40. The Christian Cynic says

    thomaspenn:

    That just says God is happy when wicked people repent, and he hopes they do repent before they die. It does not say he regrets what he does to them in response to their wickedness.

    This is false. Both questions are rhetorical: the answer to the first is no (God doesn’t delight in the destruction of the wicked) and the second is yes (He does delight when the wicked repent). All I need to establish for my argument is that God does not enjoy sending people to hell, and the first rhetorical question covers that.

    This again says that God is patient and hopes you repent, but says nothing about regretting their fate if they die without repenting.

    Like the previous verse, it establishes that God does not want to punish anyone – “does not want” is tantamount to “does not like” for my purposes here.

    I also don’t understand why non-inerrantist would quote the Bible when we are discussing a purely logic based argument anyway.

    Because I’m playing devil’s advocate here, and being a non-inerrantist doesn’t mean that I discard the Bible altogether, anyway.

    You seem to imply that you understand this by changing “perfect” to “correct” in your response. Correct actions can have regrettable results, but perfect ones by definition cannot.

    I don’t think regret is a valid concern here, but I’ll grant this for a moment.

    If we changed “celebrated” to “praised” is it more obvious?

    I would argue that the two words have distinctly different connotations: “celebrate” connotes happiness and joy, while “praise” suggests a milder sense of simple affirmation or approval. As I’ve said in other places in this comment, the key is that one can be satisfied that a decision or action is correct without being pleased or happy with it. I have young children, and I have to punish them when they do things they shouldn’t, and even while I am generally satisfied with my discipline (but not always, as I’m not a perfect parent), I’m not happy to discipline them. While that’s not a perfect analogy, I think it illustrates what I’ve been saying in the last few comments.

  41. thomaspenn says

    The Christian Cynic @48

    You have misread the biblical quotes. The quote in Ezekiel says “death” not “eternal punishment”. It is saying that God is unhappy that these people died without repenting. It makes no judgement about their fate after they die.

    The quote in Peter says the same thing. God does not want the wicked to “perish” without repenting. It also does not say anything about how God feels about their fate after they’ve died without repenting.

    Finally, your analogy misses a very critical point. You aren’t omnipotent, so you have to accept some negative consequences from your actions due to the fact that your potential actions are constrained. God doesn’t suffer from any such constraints on his actions. If he was in your place, he could teach your children whatever lesson needed to be learned without causing them any suffering whatsoever. It would be perfect, and we should praise that action and celebrate the fact that your kids will be better people and no one had to suffer in any way shape or form.

  42. thomaspenn says

    Oh, and my point about bringing up the fact that you are an non-inerrantist was to say that it doesn’t matter even if the bible directly said “You should bad about the fact that GOD tortures people in hell.” it wouldn’t mean that it was logically consistent with the idea of an omnipotent and omni-benevolent deity. It would just be another contradiction in the bible. We would then have to decide which belief should take precedence and since god’s omnipotence and omni-benevolence are core Christian beliefs, we would logically reject the “You should feel bad for the people god tortures for all eternity.” doctrine.

  43. heddle says

    thomaspenn,

    We would then have to decide which belief should take precedence and since god’s omnipotence and omni-benevolence are core Christian beliefs,

    No, God’s supposed omni-benevolence is not a core Christian belief. The bible does not say that God only does good for all people (omni-benevolence), it says all he does is ultimately for good for only a definite subset of people: those who love him. (Rom 8:28).

    Declaring that god is omni-benevolent and then saying that sending people to hell demonstrates that he is not–ergo the bible is a contradiction–is an old trick. It doesn’t get better with age.

  44. KG says

    heddle,

    That Christianity began to lose its hold in Europe as the torture and killing of atheists (and for that matter Christians of locally non-approved varieties) declined in the late 17th and 18th century, and has declined much faster since WW2, as it became socially acceptable to be an atheist, is a historical commonplace. For example, Colin McEvedy, in the Penguin Atlas of Modern History, says:

    Cataloguing these [religious] persecutions gives the impression that religion was playing as large a part in European life as ever. This is probably true of the first half of the seventeenth century, when increasingly effective state machinery was frequently employed in support of bigotry; it is certainly not true of the second half, by which time public sentiment – at least in norther Europe – was shifting in favour of tolerance. Religious feeling and religious institutions entered on a definite decline: from this time on the proportion of social behaviour influenced by religious beliefs diminished with each generation.

    Now, this historical commonplace could be wrong; but you give no reason whatever to think so, nor even, as I said, any hint as to how you think it is wrong.

    As for assertions without evidence, that’s your stock-in-trade. Consider the garbage about the proportion of Americans who would declare themselves Christian without social pressure being only 5%.

    thomaspenn,
    I’ve no intention of laying off the vile heddle, worshipper of infinite evil. He should make anyone with a spark of decency want to vomit.

  45. ambulocetacean says

    I want to make a documentary about the plaintiffs in church/state cases and the bullying and often violence they almost always face from those loving Christians.

    That would be great.

    Re Heddle’s initial point, that

    One of these vile comments does more damage than a sea of gnu atheists.

    How does it do that? Do you think such comments cause Christians to lose their belief in Jesus, or that they scare off potential converts?

    I can’t see it making any difference at all. I’m sure those little arseholes are to a large degree simply mirroring the belligerent Christianity of the society/community from which they come. Rhode Island ain’t gonna become Atheistland because of this.

    But when it comes to the gnu atheists, they really do seem to be making a difference, as you can see in the Converts’ Corner section on Dawkins’ website.

  46. ambulocetacean says

    The bible does not say that God only does good for all people (omni-benevolence), it says all he does is ultimately for good for only a definite subset of people: those who love him. (Rom 8:28).

    So why worship him then? Out of fear? Serious question.

  47. says

    On topic…

    This is why I want to make a documentary about the plaintiffs in church/state cases and the bullying and often violence they almost always face from those loving Christians.

    Are you planning too? If you do a Kickstart campaign I can tell you I’d be very seriously interested in contributing.

  48. heddle says

    KG,

    I wrote:

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if you want to look at what the numbers would be like across all groups (rich, poor, educated, not, black, yellow, brown, white, male female, gay, straight) if everyone was free of societal and cultural pressure to declare Christianity, look at the ~5% or so number of the National Academy of Sciences. That is probably a good first-order guess.

    Perhaps. Probably. ~ (approximately). First Order. Guess.

    Lot’s of weasle-words.

    Your characterization:

    Consider the garbage about the proportion of Americans who would declare themselves Christian without social pressure being only 5%.

    As if I stated it as a fact. No admission that it was on my part speculation as I wrote it. Just a distortion on your part.

    Now consider one of your statements:

    Yeah, yeah. Keep on whistling in the dark, heddle. There is no sign whatever of the collapse of Christianity in Europe coming to an end or even slowing down.

    No wiggle room. You have declared it as self-evident. With no evidence. And your Colin McEvedy quote is irrelevant. Nobody denies that religion declined precipitously in Europe. How does that bolster your claim, way back in #21, that “the majority [of American Christians] still think atheists are baby-eating Satanists”? It has nothing to do with it, nor with your claim “There is no sign whatever of the collapse of Christianity in Europe coming to an end or even slowing down.” You may be right, but you offer no evidence of that. Here is a WSJ article that casts doubt–especially that the decline, as you put it, “is not even slowing down.”

    (To thomaspenn) I’ve no intention of laying off the vile heddle

    Well at least try to up your game a bit. You are not in thomaspenn’s league, clearly.

    ambulocetacean

    How does it do that? Do you think such comments cause Christians to lose their belief in Jesus, or that they scare off potential converts?

    No, that is not how it damages the church. The damage to the church is that the church’s mission is to bring glory to god. This does the opposite. It’s not a numbers thing.

  49. The Christian Cynic says

    [Exekiel 18:23] just says God is happy when wicked people repent, and he hopes they do repent before they die. It does not say he regrets what he does to them in response to their wickedness.

    It would be helpful if you would look at Exekiel 18 as a whole rather than focusing on the one word “death.” Hint: It talks about judgment for sin and says that those who turn from sin will live – clearly that is not meant to be literal, and it wouldn’t be the only place in the Bible where death signified a spiritual, not physical, death. In fact, speaking of…

    The quote in Peter says the same thing. God does not want the wicked to “perish” without repenting. It also does not say anything about how God feels about their fate after they’ve died without repenting.

    “Perish” here also signifies a spiritual death in hell. It most certainly does not mean “perish without repenting.”

    And if you’re arguing that there’s no explicit statement of how God feels about those who perish, consider that my argument is an inference. Is it possible not to want some outcome but to like that outcome if it comes to pass? I would assert that it is not.

    Similarly, you have entirely missed the purpose of my analogy. I was showing how it is possible to dislike a correct decision, to feel unhappy that something necessary had to be done. You think that hell isn’t necessary – and I agree with this to an extent (remember that I’m playing devil’s advocate) – but that ignores the point of the analogy. You can also argue that people aren’t children, too, but that wasn’t what I was saying. Analogies aren’t meant to be taken to their logical conclusion; they are meant to make an instructive comparison in one or a few aspects.

    Oh, and my point about bringing up the fact that you are an non-inerrantist was to say that it doesn’t matter even if the bible directly said “You should bad about the fact that GOD tortures people in hell.” it wouldn’t mean that it was logically consistent with the idea of an omnipotent and omni-benevolent deity. It would just be another contradiction in the bible. We would then have to decide which belief should take precedence and since god’s omnipotence and omni-benevolence are core Christian beliefs, we would logically reject the “You should feel bad for the people god tortures for all eternity.” doctrine.

    First, Michael Heath is the first one to bring up inerrantism in reference to heddle: I only noted that I’m not an inerrantist as part of my devil’s advocate explanation. Second, I brought up Scripture as a way of illustrating that there is no obligation from an inerrantist perspective to wish anyone to be eternally damned. Remember here that we’re not arguing about the morality of eternal punishment, the problem of evil/suffering, or any of that; I don’t know why these side issues have become the focus. (Scratch that, I do know: it’s the easy way to attack the issue obliquely rather than addressing it directly and honestly.)

  50. The Christian Cynic says

    On an entirely different note, I second the suggestion for a Kickstarter campaign if you’re serious about the documentary (and I hope you are – I love the idea and think you would do it justice).

  51. Lycanthrope says

    Thank you, cafeeineaddicted @17; I was going to point that out. I hate that bit with a burning passion. Fuck you, Dane Cook, for inflicting it on the world.

  52. erk12 says

    What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel words of Christians!

    Stealing from Darwin a bit.

  53. says

    No, God’s supposed omni-benevolence is not a core Christian belief. The bible does not say that God only does good for all people (omni-benevolence), it says all he does is ultimately for good for only a definite subset of people: those who love him. (Rom 8:28).

    Declaring that god is omni-benevolent and then saying that sending people to hell demonstrates that he is not–ergo the bible is a contradiction–is an old trick. It doesn’t get better with age.

    Thank you for establishing how the posters there can justify their hatred. Displaying the same bigotry and tribalism that you whine hurts you so much. Such an oblivious asshole.

  54. says

    Michael, I don’t think it’s Christianity or religion that gives rise to this hideous behavior. I think it has more to do with ingroup/outgroup dynamics, stupidity (don’t forget the IQ distribution) and the normal prevalence of human madness. Especially given the opportunity for anonymous expression, we get to see just how insane are the in-group attacks on out-group members–the herd shuns and in some cases attacks the threatening deviant.

    Certainly there are fundamentalist leaning Christians who think this is perfectly acceptable behavior–but I think fundamentalism is a form of madness, and these are people who would be mad with or without their religion. It’s an incredibly brittle form of defense. But I’ve come across many people who are in no way, shape or form religious, but they say they believe in God and have very aggressive reactions to atheists. Not worth an essay on the dynamics behind this, but as far as Christians I know–people who are serious about Christianity–I can’t for a moment imagine a single one of them remotely approving this kind of behavior. It is utterly antithetical to everything they believe. And they’re no more responsible for the behavior of fundies and pseudoChristians who have absolutely nothing to do with them, than atheists are responsible for the behavior of a Stalin. As a Christian, I have absolutely no contact, no affinity for, no relationship with this tribalistic trash. In fact, I feel much more connection to the values of many of the people here. I have no influence on the crackpots, but nonetheless, express my opinions publicly, blog my opinions, and support other Christians who are somewhere on the same page I am in terms of personal conduct.

    Having an affiliation with a Christian university where I haven’t met anyone who would do anything but unconditionally condemn behavior like this, I can say confidently that someone at this school caught engaging in this kind of threat would be expelled immediately. I think, Michael, that your view of Christians is, naturally, based on the people who raised you and lived in your community. But these are the kinds of people I don’t know. They couldn’t be further from my world and my experience. I know there are many of them, but they couldn’t care less about what someone like me has to say. They’d probably see me as someone who isn’t really a Christian. Fine. I don’t see them as Christians. I can agree to disagree with them, think them primitive illiterates who have missed the entire arc of the the error-filled bible, and accept that I’m more like you than them, even if that is mind-boggling to you.

  55. Michael Heath says

    Me earlier to heddle:

    Your refusal to own to up to the reality and I think, your own personal responsibility, that it is your form of biblical inerrant beliefs that enables, justifies, and maximizes people who believe and think like this.

    Christian Cynic responds:

    What “biblical inerrant belief” does so? As a Christian who doesn’t hold to inerrancy, I’d love to hear what premise you base this assertion on.

    I could have made my point better. A general theme of the Bible is an omnipotent all-knowing god, creator of this universe, creator of humanity, the architect of how we’re supposed to act, and the judge and dispenser of our sentences. This god’s judgement to many humans promises to be eternal punishment. The other premise is the Bible is the inerrant word of God, therefore the previous premise is objectively truth.

    Given these two premises, we can easily and safely predict Christianity will attract believers who often fantasize and celebrate the eternal punishment of others. Precisely because the very all-powerful being who they’re most supposed to emulate promises to do this himself.

    Now the Bible has verses which would condemn humans holding, expressing, and promoting such on their fellow man. But that’s not my point nor does it refute my point. It is the point heddle raises and rightfully condemns these people for breaking. But I find this trivial in the larger scheme of things which I primarily focused on and respond to you below. And to answer your question, my point again is we can predict people will behave like those they emulate, e.g., WWJD? Which we see here in this very blog thread with the comments Ed originally posted which illustrates my point.

    Me earlier to heddle:

    That you too celebrate the existence of a god who promises to punish eternally. These people’s very role model is no different than the OT god who hates and the NT god who promises eternal punishment and to bring a sword. Yes it requires the avoid certain biblical verses to so, but there’s also ample verses that also support such a position.

    Christian Cynic responds:

    Again, I don’t really subscribe to the traditional view of hell, but if you believe in eternal (i.e. unending) punishment, that doesn’t mean that 1) you wish it upon anyone or 2) you revel in someone’s eternal fate.

    I never claimed that heddle wished it upon anyone nor revels in someone’s eternal punishment. In fact I assume most Christians don’t; well, I don’t assume that but I hope it. These aren’t my points. My point again is celebrating the god who does this. Such a celebration is something I find to be certainly immoral where I’m now questioning whether it’s in fact evil. As I noted earlier:

    I can understand believing in and therefore fearing and mourning the existence of such a god; and therefore carrying the morally upright burden of warning their fellow humans. And given this supposed god is also all-knowing, we know faking a celebration of this god’s supposed nature in order to remain moral and save oneself from this hell is impossible, meaning these Christian believers have no rational, moral, and ethical reason to celebrate the existence nature of such a god.

    And yet they do celebrate such a god, which I find unconscionable. So no, I’m not claiming heddle is celebrating the destiny of less fortunate humans nor is that a very challenging strawman to beat-up. It’s instead all about celebrating the god who acts like this. If Christians are in fact moral, how can they celebrate such a god? Believe in him yes, I get that; but celebrate him?

    I’m actually somewhat confident few Christians who believe in such a god have ever considered their personal moral culpability celebrating a god who is evil enough to condemn even one sentient being to the type of eternal punishment written about in the Bible. But not thinking about it as a regular attendee of a Hell-believing church and/or consistent reader of the Bible is not much of an excuse. Consider the incredible lack of empathy for one’s fellow man to not consider the fact believers celebrate a god who sentences humans to eternal punishment. This is their religion yet I find so few Christians who ever really test the validity and ramifications of their own religion. I get why they don’t on many matters given how they come to faith, which is no different than most cultures’ religions. However I do think the very religion that commands us to both love others, including our enemies, and treat others like we’d be like to be treated should at least develop enough character in at least its teen and adult believers to consider the implications of worshipping a god who won’t be remotely following that edict himself but instead treating others in a manner more horrifically evil than all of humanity could ever possibly do to any one living creature.

  56. Michael Heath says

    Dr. X,

    I read your post after posting my previous post. I think you’ll find in my previous post that your rebuttals to me were based on misunderstandings of anything I’ve wrote on this topic.

    I’m a little surprised because I think I’ve long been very consistent on this topic, i.e., I’m always careful to not defectively conflate groups which has us blaming one group far more than justified for another group’s bad behavior. My criticisms of Christians who act like the people Ed quotes here wasn’t an indictment of all Christians. If you read what I wrote you’ll see I use the necessary adjectives to filter out those who do not predominately share such a burden. It was only for those who promote the very beliefs these knuckleheads are exploiting.

    However and I think the more interesting point is not whether people who celebrate and believe in a god who destines some to Hell support such bad behavior, where heddle rightfully condemns them, but instead how far are people like heddle removed from such reprehensible behavior given the fact they celebrate the existence of such a god? I initially argued to heddle he’s far closer to them than he is us non-believers [who argue for objective morality (the latter insinuated).] Not because he believes such to be true, but because he celebrates the existence of a god who promises to carry out far worse punishment than these people are fantasizing about.

  57. ambulocetacean says

    Eternal torment seems a bit much.

    Even if you think it fair for, say, Hitler to be slowly flayed alive 200 million times and then waterboarded non-stop for 500 billion years, that’s less than a trillionth of the punishment that Bill Clinton is going to get for each blowjob.

    This Yahweh-Jehova-Allah character really needs to get a sense of perspective.

  58. dingojack says

    Dr X.:
    God – the ultimate authoritarian – attracts large groups of authoritarian followers to slavishly support the evil that those up the hierarchy do, under his (supposed) authority*, whilst doing evil to those who they perceive as undermenschen. And this surprises you?
    Dingo
    —–
    * gotta love that total deniability, nope, no responsibility here, move along

  59. John Phillips, FCD says

    I have seen it asked in a couple of posts now, by both Ed and Christian cynic, why we take the moderate to task for the actions of the extremist. In reply, for me at least, when you base your belief system on an evidence free faith based system the only difference brtween you and the extremist is interpretation. But, the justification is the same, i.e. that evidence free faith based belief system. I take the same stance against anyone relying on any evidence free based belief system, i.e. religion, pseudoscience etc,, the only difference to the relative importance I attach to each, is based purely on the damage they can cause.

    So while it pleases me that the moderates, e.g. heddle and CC, will criticise actions such as those reported here, or even worse, if there was no evidence free belief system like religions, there would be one less excuse for division and ingroup/outgroup behaviour. And no, sadly, I don’t think that a world largely or even totally free of religion would be a paradise, but, to repeat myself, at least it would be one less very damaging excuse for division. Hell, I would even plump for a world were all existing believers were your ‘average’ UK 2012 Anglican types, i.e. your quintissential moderate believer. Them, well their bishops in the House of Lords anyway, still regularly manage to get up my nose and means that I have to involve myself in our political process more than I would wish, but with that caveat, they are in themselves, largely harmless and a world where all believers were of that ilk I could live with.

  60. KG says

    heddle,

    The McEvedy quote speaks directly to the first of the claims I made. Your WSJ article makes a reference to “surveys” but does not actually cite any; similar claims of an actual or anticipated revival have been made by religous leaders in the UK for as long as I can remember, while, churches have continued to empty. I must thank you for prompting me to seek out some relevant studies. The overall picture is much as I claimed, but I admit there are some minor caveats.

    Here is one recent and relevant study. I quote from the abstract (emphasis added):

    An analysis of the first wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) shows that b><each generation in every country surveyed is less religious than the last. Although there are some minor differences in the speed of the decline (the most religious countries are changing more quickly than the least religious), the magnitude of the fall in religiosity during the last century has been remarkably constant across the continent. Despite these shifts in the prevalence of conventional Christian belief, practice and self-identification, residual involvement is considerable. Many people are neither regular churchgoers nor self-consciously non-religious. The term ‘fuzzy fidelity’ describes this casual loyalty to tradition. Religion usually plays only a minor role in the lives of such people. Religious change in European countries follows a common trajectory whereby fuzzy fidelity rises and then falls over a very extended period. The starting points are different across the continent, but the forces at work may be much the same.

    I admit that the abstract to one of the articles citing this says:

    …religious decline is mainly occurring in Catholic European countries and has effectively ceased among post-1945 birth cohorts in six Northwestern European societies where secularization began early.

    I haven’t read that article, but this claim does not appear to be supported by the data from the European Values Survey cited in this article, which is downloadable in full. This shows that, across three survey dates (1990, 1999, 2008) and all of Europe except Turkey, northern Cyprus and the Caucasus (which are excluded from the study), cohort effects predominate, with younger people being less religious throughout the continent except in parts of former Yugoslavia, and in some cases, the very youngest (late teens/early 20s) – which is probably an effect of parental influence – the authors note that it is not until the mid-20s that attitudes to religion stabilise, with little change thereafter. There is little change in any of the measures of religiosity over time for any cohort, with a possible exception between 1990 and 1999 for eastern and northern Europe (northern Europe means Scandinavia and the Baltic states), where there is a statistically significant increase, not continued in 2008; the authors consider four possible explanations, finding none of them satisfactory: sampling artefact, genuine religious revival, age effect (people actually do become more religious with age), immigration.

    On the second of these, they have the following to say:

    It is a period effect: there was a religious revival that swept through much of Europe during the 1990s making people of all ages more religious on average at the end of the decade than they had been at the beginning. This story is plausible for formerly communist countries but much less so elsewhere, at least in the absence of independent evidence. Moreover young people continue to be less religious than their parents, and we need to ask how religiosity in general could increase without affecting the engine of generational decline.

    One possibility I would mention here: at a societal level, religiosity appears to correlate with socio-economic inequality and insecurity, and the 1990s were a decade when both increased very markedly in much of Europe. If this is the explanation, we would expect an uptick in the next EVS.

    To summarise, the combination of cohort effects and little within-cohort change means that overall religiosity is indeed declining everywhere in Europe except parts of Yugoslavia (where of course there has been large-scale inter-communal strife with a basis in religious affiliation), as earlier cohorts die off. The general picture is thus quite clear: the decline of Christianity in Europe continues, and its main strongholds are among the old and the least educated. Its best chances of a revival are probably increases in inter-communal strife andor socio-economic insecurity and inequality.

  61. KG says

    he [heddle] celebrates the existence of a god who promises to carry out far worse punishment than these people are fantasizing about. – Michael Heath

    Indeed. Heddle’s picture of the cosmos is a version of O’Brien’s picture of the future in 1984, as “A boot stamping on a human face – forever”. In two respects, however, it’s far worse even than that. First, individuals will be subjected to infinitely prolonged agony, while Winston Smith was not. Second, in 1984, membership of the Inner Party was not determined at birth – it was “open to talent”, while heddle believes we are all predestined either to spend eternity praising Big Brother, or to spend it in indescribable agony at his hands.

  62. MacBethad says

    “for the record, when you die you will NOT grow into a tree or some other bullshit athiests believe in”

    Coincidentally, This last quote you posted is also one of the major reasons why I think Dane Cook is a worthless douche comic. His frat-boy aesthetics and endless self-promotion are bad enough, but that moronic joke justifying religious bigotry apparently made a big impression on his mouth-breathing fans, and now every dime-store Christian in the US pulls this silly canard out whenever they can’t beat an atheist in an argument.

  63. No One says

    No, God’s supposed omni-benevolence is not a core Christian belief. The bible does not say that God only does good for all people (omni-benevolence), it says all he does is ultimately for good for only a definite subset of people: those who love him. (Rom 8:28).

    What does god want with a starship?

    We humans routinely help people that don’t love us. Heck I’ve saved peoples lives that I downright despise. I’d never dream of letting someone come to harm just because they don’t love me. And since this god doesn’t exist I’m left with the image of the shaman demanding that his magic stick be kissed. Pretty pathetic.

  64. The Christian Cynic says

    Michael, I think I’ve gotten a little more insight into where our communication is breaking down: I’ve been reading your comments largely in light of the “enables, justifies, and maximizes people who believe and think like this” comment. As such, I’ve been arguing that these beliefs don’t logically lead to the sort of behavior described in the OP. I still think that’s true, but now I see that your point is more along the lines of this comment:

    Given these two premises, we can easily and safely predict Christianity will attract believers who often fantasize and celebrate the eternal punishment of others. Precisely because the very all-powerful being who they’re most supposed to emulate promises to do this himself.

    I’m at least sympathetic to a more probabilistic or correlative reading, although I’m not sure what proportion of Christians are converts (and hence would have been “attracted” to Christianity) or were born into the belief. I think it is more likely that the type of behavior is due to authoritarian tendencies, and the beliefs are merely a superficial justification.

    I do want to respond to a few more things, though.

    I never claimed that heddle wished it upon anyone nor revels in someone’s eternal punishment.
    …So no, I’m not claiming heddle is celebrating the destiny of less fortunate humans nor is that a very challenging strawman to beat-up.

    I agree, largely because I haven’t made that claim. But as I noted earlier in this comment, I’ve been taking this as an argument about the kind of people described in the OP, of which heddle is notably not an exemplar.

    I also have serious qualms about suggesting that people who believe in a god who punishes eternally are themselves immoral for having that belief. I don’t think people are evil who believe that; they’re just mistaken. I can’t think of any beliefs that I would consider it immoral to simply hold; even bigotry like racism, sexism, etc. isn’t itself immoral, in my opinion, although acting on it is.

  65. dingojack says

     CC – The problem is that xtians are more likely to act on what they’re Pastor told them god said.
    Authoritarians attract authoritarian followers. It’s just a sad fact.
    Dingo

  66. The Christian Cynic says

    That may be true, DJ, but it’s their actions that are immoral, not the belief itself. (On the other hand, I’m not convinced that there is any widespread action based on the belief of eternal damnation. Even actions against non-Christians are more likely to be a tribalistic thing than predicated on said belief.)

  67. inflection says

    This is why I want to make a documentary about the plaintiffs in church/state cases and the bullying and often violence they almost always face from those loving Christians.

    Work out the budget you’d need, then put up a Kickstarter account or something that applies. I’d donate.

  68. Michael Heath says

    Christian Cynic:

    I’m at least sympathetic to a more probabilistic or correlative reading, although I’m not sure what proportion of Christians are converts (and hence would have been “attracted” to Christianity) or were born into the belief.

    This is a good point. I also think when we start looking into how people end up in their current denominations it partially rebuts my point and perhaps partially Dr. X’s* as well regarding the attributes of fundamentalists.

    I do recall a study a couple of years back that showed the rates at which people moved between denominations. Hopefully I’ll have some later today to find and link to those findings. However I don’t think even a migration overview is completely illuminating in reconciling personality types and beliefs to denominational affiliations because I’m willing to bet many denominational changes have more to do geographical relocations and communal factors rather than attempting to reconcile one’s beliefs to a denomination more closely aligned with such beliefs. That’s not to say a Congregationalist moving to another city is going to end up in a baptist church. It does argue evangelicals making the same move might not even consider whether the church they’re joining has a different position on women preaching and teaching men. Hopefully that study parses out the reasons people change denominations and categorizes them in a way that measures migrations from very different theologies vs. those migrations between similar though different theologies.

    Christian Cynic:

    I also have serious qualms about suggesting that people who believe in a god who punishes eternally are themselves immoral for having that belief.

    You keep beating this dead strawman. No one is making an argument worth rebutting that believing something makes one evil or immoral. Instead I think the best argument worthy of our consideration is criticizing people pointing to evil as real where they celebrate this is a part of our reality.

    *Dr. X writes:

    I think fundamentalism is a form of madness, and these are people who would be mad with or without their religion. It’s an incredibly brittle form of defense.

    Perhaps fundamentalism allows such people who belong to all groups to reveal their defective thinking more within fundamentalism. If so than Dr. X’s point might be not rebutted. However, if we presume that most people belong to a belief system due to having been raised in it, than we can’t solely assert these people are nuts because they attract nuts. We could assert fundamentalism promotes the expression of their nuts and develops more nuts whereas a different environment would have caused many of them to not be nuts.

  69. The Christian Cynic says

    MH:

    You keep beating this dead strawman. No one is making an argument worth rebutting that believing something makes one evil or immoral.

    You criticized celebrating a god who punishes eternally. That is either a) an attitude or feeling about the belief of eternal punishment or b) the combination of that belief with the belief that God is still worthy of worship despite eternally punishing many humans. My position is the same in either instance.

    Instead I think the best argument worthy of our consideration is criticizing people pointing to evil as real where they celebrate this is a part of our reality.

    But of course the point of contention would be whether punishing someone eternally is evil or not, so I don’t think this particularly helps your position. (Even I don’t think that eternal punishment is necessarily evil, despite rejecting it; I do think that it doesn’t fit with the idea of a loving god, and I also think that there are places that suggest universal reconciliation. But that’s neither here nor there.)

  70. Michael Heath says

    Christian Cynic writes:

    But of course the point of contention would be whether punishing someone eternally is evil or not, so I don’t think this particularly helps your position. (Even I don’t think that eternal punishment is necessarily evil, despite rejecting it; I do think that it doesn’t fit with the idea of a loving god, and I also think that there are places that suggest universal reconciliation. But that’s neither here nor there.)

    Wow, just wow. I don’t think you’ve thought this through sufficiently.

    Let’s say I have two sons, one nine and one ten. We’re sitting at the dinner table and they’re squabbling. I go get some gasoline, pour it on them, and set them on fire, they die in horrible anguish. Is this act evil? I can’t imagine you stating it is not evil, it is by any objective moral standard set by humans demonstrably evil.

    If you agree this act is evil, how does it measure-up evil-wise to the type of eternal punishment, ya know – infinity, promised in the Bible for someone who lives a good life but doesn’t accept assertions which can’t be empirically validated and are arguably incoherent and per the Bible is sentenced by God to Hell for all eternity? Hell, just pick a random person off the street and then consider the question.

    The only way I can see you continue to avoid conceding the evil of eternal punishment for humans is by holding an all-powerful, all-knowing god to a near-infinitely lower standard of conduct that nearly all humans are easily able to practice. Which should be obvious to you is absurd on its face.

  71. KG says

    the combination of that belief with the belief that God is still worthy of worship despite eternally punishing many humans. – Christian Cynic

    It is that which I call evil. The only moral response to believing that there is an all-powerful being that causes or intends to cause infinite pain to any sentient being, would be a determination to resist and reject it, even without hope.

  72. The Christian Cynic says

    Wow, just wow. I don’t think you’ve thought this through sufficiently.

    No, I just think that I gave a very quick, overly simplistic view of my opinion on the matter. Remember first that I don’t believe in hell as eternal punishment: what I’m saying is simply that my primary concern is not a moral one.

    But I’m just playing devil’s advocate, so I’m not sure why my personal view matters at all. The people who do believe the position I’m arguing would contend that such a god is not evil but in fact just because they argue that such a punishment is justified. You obviously disagree, which is fine; you’re entitled to that stance. But you shouldn’t pretend as though it is a settled issue because it simply isn’t.

    For my part, my belief in universal reconciliation is more fundamentally rooted in anxiety about the unequal circumstances that each person finds themselves in (and thus their relative chances at salvation) and about the very purpose of hell (consider as an analogue the question of whether incarceration serves as punishment, deterrence, or rehabilitation). I understand why the morality of eternal punishment would concern some people, and I admit to some anxiety over it as well, but it’s just not my primary concern.

  73. The Christian Cynic says

    I would also note that I have a very high threshold when it comes to ascribing evil. Even though I have nothing against heddle personally, I find his Calvinist soteriology very repelling, but I don’t think it an evil position, just wrong. To me, the word is thrown around too loosely, and I like to use it when I am distinctly not being hyperbolic. YMMV.

  74. Michael Heath says

    Christian Cynic,

    I would appreciate you taking my points seriously and then directly responding rather than blithely responding. Precisely because I would appreciate a well-thought out response from you.

    Christian Cynic writes:

    To me, the word [evil] is thrown around too loosely, and I like to use it when I am distinctly not being hyperbolic. YMMV.

    Wow again. We’re talking about eternal punishment, not gossip or a kid lying once to a parent. I think you’re misrepresenting the impact of what we’re dealing with to avoid directly confronting the premises being presented to you. That’s exactly why I provided the fictional scenario with the dad and his sons relative to the biblical promise of Hell. As I asserted earlier, the father’s act was clearly evil whereas God’s supposed promise will cause infinitely more human suffering, yet your argument is we throw around the word evil too easily???

  75. The Christian Cynic says

    What exactly have I “blithely” responded to? If you’re going to chastise me for something, I think I have the right to know what precisely it is.

    If it’s the father and sons scenario, you should read my second paragraph of #82, which emphasizes that I’m playing devil’s advocate. I didn’t respond to that because I don’t feel the need to – it’s not my position.

    And I said that the idea of eternal punishment wasn’t necessarily evil, not that it definitely is not. I don’t have a confident position on this, mostly because the question has little relevance for me, having rejected the notion altogether.

    Wow again. We’re talking about eternal punishment, not gossip or a kid lying once to a parent.

    You seem to have taken my general point to be about eternal punishment. If you notice, I specifically mentioned someone’s belief, which is a clue to what I was suggesting.

  76. chrisc says

    From the article linked at #3:

    I don’t agree with what this young lady did and how far she took it. I think she had the option to look away from the banner and move on with her day. We ALL have things that offend us but remain tolerant. Different strokes, right? She should have been taught this lesson which would have saved her all of this aggravation that she put on herself.
    HOWEVER, the people who are threatening her are no better than she is.

    So, le’me get this straight.

    1) A young woman makes a complaint that is upheld about a sectarian banner on a public school property, using all appropriate avenues developed to deal with this sort of matter;

    2) People respond to their sides’ loss in court by engaging in a campaign of intimidation, that includes death threats and promises of eternal suffering in the here-after;

    3) These two responses are equivalent. The people threatening to kill a teenager are just as bad as the teenager who made a justified complaint.

    What the hell is wrong with these people?

  77. KG says

    in fact just because they argue that such a punishment is justified. You obviously disagree, which is fine; you’re entitled to that stance. But you shouldn’t pretend as though it is a settled issue because it simply isn’t. – Christian Cynic

    Rubbish. Since no finite being can commit infinite wrong, infinite punishment is quite clearly infinitely disproportionate and hence, infinitely evil.

  78. KG says

    Moreover, a morality which permits punishment that does not result either in preventing harm, or in redressing it, is simply sadism.

  79. KG says

    And I said that the idea of eternal punishment wasn’t necessarily evil, not that it definitely is not. I don’t have a confident position on this – Christian Cynic

    You don’t have a confident position on whether torturing someone forever is evil? It would seem that “Christian morality” is an oxymoron.

  80. Michael Heath says

    KG writes to Christian Cynic:

    You don’t have a confident position on whether torturing someone forever is evil?

    I was shocked by that as well. Which is why I expressed myself with “Wow”.

  81. tomh says

    You don’t have a confident position on whether torturing someone forever is evil?

    Millions and millions of Christians have no problem with this concept, why should this one be any different? Though I will admit that this view is more nuanced. He doesn’t believe in Hell, but if it were true, he can’t figure out if it would be evil or not.

  82. The Christian Cynic says

    The focus of these responses is more than a little frustrating for me, for several reasons:

    1) I’ve said multiple times that I don’t believe in hell as eternal punishment, so it’s a non-issue, yet commenters want it to be an issue for me and are basically pushing it on me.

    2) This issue is treated as purely black-and-white by all who have reacted so perplexedly, but all I’ve said is that I don’t have confidence in saying that such a thing is evil, which is mostly because I don’t think the issue is cut-and-dry. I don’t begrudge anyone else their opinion on this, and I’m pretty irritated that it’s only my hesitance that is receiving such scrutiny.

    3) For suggesting that I’m not confident in making the same judgment as others, even when I don’t share the belief in question, I get the insinuation that I’m somehow immoral, as if that makes any fucking sense at all.

    I think I’ve said enough in this thread that there’s no point in responding to any more questions about this individual issue. If you’re really interested in a Christian’s opinion about their theology of hell, go ask a different one.

  83. heddle says

    There are two levels of misconception here. One, not shared by people like Michael Heath but by lowbrows of the raven caliber, is that we relish the thought of people going to hell. That we sit around rubbing our hands together thinking “Heh, just wait to PZ opens his eyes in eternity!!” Utter nonsense.

    The second misconception, which Michael Heath holds, is more nuanced—that we don’t find it (eternal punishment, especially eternal torment) evil. Actually, even those of us that believe in hell find it, along with things like Joshua’s conquest, evil. That is, there exists no biblical rationalization that will satisfy and will quench the feeling of horror viscerally. There are stone cold theological explanations, which may have some merit, but they do not satisfy the gut—which continues to feel nauseated. I have explained this before in regards to Joshua’s genocides. I find them abhorrent. I don’t know how they could have been commanded by a holy god, but I believe they were. This side of glory I will always find them repugnant. My assumption is that on the other side either my knowledge of what happened and what hell really is will be shown to have been quite false, or there will be some unimaginable phase transition where it all makes sense. But right now, in this mortal flesh, I find the concept of eternal punishment evil.

    I don’t think Michael Heath realizes that.

  84. dingojack says

    CC – what you actually said was: “And I said that the idea of eternal punishment wasn’t necessarily evil, not that it definitely is not. I don’t have a confident position on this… ” [#85. Empasis mine]
    So under what circumstances would you imagine eternal punishment to be not evil, in fact justified, exactly?
    Give at least one or two examples.
    Dingo

  85. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    But right now, in this mortal flesh, I find the concept of eternal punishment evil.

    I don’t think Michael Heath realizes that.

    I didn’t realize it simply because I don’t recall you clearly expressing a position on it before. I do recall you claiming God is holy and you can’t understand it, but I don’t recall you personally concluding the concept is evil as you do here. I’ll be chewing this over for awhile prior to responding. I am grateful for your response. I really do want to have an optimal position on the celebratory part by humans since I’m far more interested how we assess how people behave rather than their position on how God behaves.

  86. KG says

    Actually, even those of us that believe in hell find it, along with things like Joshua’s conquest, evil. That is, there exists no biblical rationalization that will satisfy and will quench the feeling of horror viscerally. There are stone cold theological explanations, which may have some merit, but they do not satisfy the gut—which continues to feel nauseated. I have explained this before in regards to Joshua’s genocides. I find them abhorrent. I don’t know how they could have been commanded by a holy god, but I believe they were. This side of glory I will always find them repugnant. My assumption is that on the other side either my knowledge of what happened and what hell really is will be shown to have been quite false, or there will be some unimaginable phase transition where it all makes sense. – heddle

    That is both ludicrous and contemptible. You have no grounds whatsoever for your assumption – you just play it as a “Get out of jail free” card for yourself and the vile monster you worship. If your moral intuition and your reason both tell you that Joshua’s genocides and hell – which you believe in – are evil, and you believe they are ordered by God, then the only possible conclusion is that God is evil, and that you are therefore worshipping evil. To evade this is moral and intellectual cowardice of the most disgusting kind. You really are far worse than those people threatening Jessica Alquist, or the likes of Ken Ham, because you don’t have the excuses of youth, stupidity, or ignorance.

  87. Michael Heath says

    David Heddle writes:

    There are two levels of misconception here. One, not shared by people like Michael Heath but by lowbrows of the raven caliber, is that we relish the thought of people going to hell. That we sit around rubbing our hands together thinking “Heh, just wait to PZ opens his eyes in eternity!!” Utter nonsense.

    Actually I must acknowledge that this element exists within Christianity. Ed regularly reveals Christians publically expressing such. In addition I have family that attend church who currently express such fantasies, plus the church I attended when I was young also had plenty of this sort of activity. One of the reasons I was so appalled by Sarah Palin was that I perceived that much of her support was from Christians who harbor such fantasies.

    I wouldn’t argue it’s a defining attribute of biblically inerrantist Christians, but the Christian religion does offer the opportunity for people to think about eternity where far too many Christians revel in the thought some unbelievers will suffer for infinity. I do appreciate the fact that all organizations which don’t have any standards of entry are going to get some riff raff, so the problem as I see it isn’t that Christianity has such people in its midst, but how many are enabled or develop such hatred by their church? Do the denominations who believe in Hell have marginally more people who wish eternal punishment onto others than other denominations or those who aren’t religious?

    I am amazed once again that you don’t acknowledge what should be self-evident based on merely being a part of the American culture. You read Ed’s blog, so how do you avoid acknowledging this is a part of Christianity?

    And while I do have a casual interest in knowing the rate of people who think like this, my interest was more in understanding how people can justify celebrating the existence and nature of a god who will punish some for infinity. That’s because I assume all conservative Christians do celebrate their god, in spite of his promise to inflict infinite suffering on some. So in this regard, there is no, “they’re no true Scotsman”, deflection available. Christians must confront and justify this or avoid recognizing this conundrum altogether. And it certainly is a conundrum because it has God acting to a standard far more immoral to what humans are capable of doing without any gods and even worse to this god’s laudably moral new covenant demand for how to treat one another. (Yes, I’m still aware of the Romans edict, ‘vengeance is mine . . .’, but I see that as a weasly rhetorical device to provide God an out for not meeting even a casual standard of morality.)

    David Heddle writes:

    The second misconception, which Michael Heath holds, is more nuanced—that we don’t find it (eternal punishment, especially eternal torment) evil. Actually, even those of us that believe in hell find it, along with things like Joshua’s conquest, evil. That is, there exists no biblical rationalization that will satisfy and will quench the feeling of horror viscerally.

    I would be shocked to see data that finds this is not an outlier position. My understanding of conservative Christianity is constantly validated in what I’m exposed to on a daily basis and this is the first time I’ve ever encountered the position that has Christians finding this evil. Instead I see them attempting to avoid such discussions or use logical fallacies to hand-wave them away. I must concede however I haven’t studied the topic of theodicy, but even if I had, it’s certainly not finding itself rooted within the general population.

    heddle writes:

    That is, there exists no biblical rationalization that will satisfy and will quench the feeling of horror viscerally.

    I was aware of this. Which I think is mostly why I’ve never encountered any debate about how to reconcile celebrating a god who does infinite evil where humans are capable and demonstrate far better behavior. The topic is avoided in the Bible in spite of this being one of the biggest conundrums a Christian who deins to think must face.

    heddle writes:

    I don’t know how they could have been commanded by a holy god, but I believe they were. This side of glory I will always find them repugnant. My assumption is that on the other side either my knowledge of what happened and what hell really is will be shown to have been quite false, or there will be some unimaginable phase transition where it all makes sense. But right now, in this mortal flesh, I find the concept of eternal punishment evil.

    You must appreciate how weak an argument or rationale this is. How strongly related it is to similar. ‘arguments from ignorance’, that are used to maintain one’s position in spite of lacking reason and evidence. That enlightenment thinkers’ abandonment of this very type of logical fallacy and related one is largely why we’ve progressed so quickly over the past couple of hundred years. Especially given your background in scientific methodology.

    And yet even though you hold this position, you still concede what is coming is unspeakably evil so this rationale fails to provide an out when it comes to you celebrating God’s existence and nature in the here and now. So, how can you celebrate a god promising suffering for infinity as I assume you continually do? By mere avoidance of the topic?

  88. heddle says

    KG,

    You really are far worse than those people threatening Jessica Alquist, or the likes of Ken Ham, because you don’t have the excuses of youth, stupidity, or ignorance.

    Then you too are morally culpable for doing nothing to combat someone who is so evil–here I am far worse, you claim, than people threatening Jessica Alquist–far worse than Ken Ham–and in the face of such a monster you do nothing but write masturbatory blog comments. Folks all over the net are rallying against people who you say are not nearly as bad as I am and yet you do nothing. Imaging what our host would do if he was presented with someone far worse than the examples who caused this post. But not you. You bloody, immoral coward.

    Micahael Heath,

    And yet even though you hold this position, you still concede what is coming is unspeakably evil so this rationale fails to provide an out when it comes to you celebrating God’s existence and nature in the here and now. So, how can you celebrate a god promising suffering for infinity as I assume you continually do? By mere avoidance of the topic?

    Does it appear that I am avoiding the topic?

    I have answered this question many times. As far as I know only two explanations fit the data. 1) I am nuts or have some brain disorder, or 2) My Calvinistic theology is true or close to the truth.

    That is, I did not, as I have said many times, make a rational decision for god. It was, at least by appearances, supernatural. One day I had no interest, the next day I had a desire to please god. There was no taking-myself-into-it. I worship god because I want to. But I don’t know why I want to.

  89. dingojack says

    Heddle – “One day I had no interest, the next day I had a desire to please god. There was no taking-myself-into-it. I worship god because I want to. But I don’t know why I want to”.

    My advice, go with option one as a working hypothesis and seek professional advice, ASAP. It’ll save you from having to fall back on ‘the Nuremberg Defence’ at the trial, the sad aftermath of that terrible day when the voices in your head told you ‘god says so’.

    Dingo

  90. KG says

    Then you too are morally culpable for doing nothing to combat someone who is so evil – heddle

    I note that you have no answer to the charge other than a remarkably feeble tu quoque. I’m trying to bring you to your senses, and to warn others against you. If I had any way to stop you spreading your vile notions to children, as I believe you do, without doing something as bad or worse myself, I would most certainly take it.

    I note also that you have also failed to respond to the evidence I presented that Christianity is indeed continuing its decline in Europe, despite your earlier claim that I was “flat out wrong”.

  91. KG says

    1) I am nuts or have some brain disorder, or 2) My Calvinistic theology is true or close to the truth. – heddle

    Ridiculous nonsense. IIRC from previous encounters with you, you started attending church because your wife (or wife-to-be) was a Christian. You therefore had a strong motivation to have a conversion experience – to please someone you love – and had put yourself in a position where this was maximally likely to happen. You now have another strong motive to continue in your belief: you are very evidently someone most reluctant to admit to error, and you have a great deal of ego-investment in your beliefs. Surely you are not stupid enough to believe that your own motivations are transparent to you?

  92. KG says

    Christian Cynic,

    I don’t believe in an eternally torturing God either, but I have no difficulty or hesitation in saying that if such a being existed, it would be evil. So why do you? If torturing someone for ever is not evil, I cannot think of anything that would be. I cannot imagine any moral issue that is more black-and-white than that.

  93. KG says

    heddle,

    If the two options you present were the only two, it would be quite obvious to any impartial observer that the first was correct, as you yourself admit that the second has led you to the position where you believe:
    1) That God is holy.
    2) That God commands, and intends to perform, evil actions.
    As you yourself admit, these beliefs are fundamentally at odds. On any reasonable definition of “holy”, they are actually in contradiction. By your own reasoning, you should therefore conclude that you are nuts or have some brain disorder. Seek medical assistance.

  94. Michael Heath says

    I wrote to heddle:

    So, how can you celebrate a god promising suffering for infinity as I assume you continually do? By mere avoidance of the topic?

    Heddle responds:

    Does it appear that I am avoiding the topic?

    I have answered this question many times. As far as I know only two explanations fit the data. 1) I am nuts or have some brain disorder, or 2) My Calvinistic theology is true or close to the truth.

    That is, I did not, as I have said many times, make a rational decision for god. It was, at least by appearances, supernatural. One day I had no interest, the next day I had a desire to please god. There was no taking-myself-into-it. I worship god because I want to. But I don’t know why I want to.

    To me you are avoiding the topic. I also disagree those are the only two explanations which fit the data but won’t cover that here, in fact they’re strawmen killed off by any credible Comparative Religion 100-level class. And I didn’t ask you why or how you commit yourself to God, but instead asked how you celebrate his existence and nature given his promise to punish eternally.

    It’s not rocket science to perceive the level of evil contained within an entity who created the conditions where they willfully choose to commit some to eternal punishment. This issue is not a good candidate for arguing, “it’s a mystery” as a way to avoid confronting this question precisely because this isn’t about the nature of God or things unknown, but instead a position and behavior you and other humans take and act out. So it really comes down to my asking you to merely rationalize head-on on how you choose to celebrate an entity who promises eternal suffering for humans. A celebration we would find rightly repulsive if projected onto humans who’ve committed the most heinous acts we’ve become informed about. In spite of the fact those heinous acts are far closer to good or neutral then they are to inflicting an infinity of suffering onto even one human.

    So no heddle, not about God, but instead about you. How you do it? I’m now speculating you haven’t actually thought about it. So if you hadn’t and therefore now that you have, how do you defend what I perceive to be a totally unjustifiable position? Unless of course one takes the same position, ‘who the hell cares about them? As long as it’s not me.’ A complete inability to empathize which is what someone close to me thinks. I tend to think Christians who believe in Hell simply avoid considering the moral implications of an entity who purposefully creates such a destiny for some people. It certainly does not reconcile with many other attributes attributed to God in the Bible even if we apply lax moral standards and in spite of the fact we normally strive for higher moral standards for those more capable of acting to a higher standard. Where here your god seems to need the biggest gimmie of all time so we don’t confront the infinite evil he promises to do.

  95. KG says

    Brave Sir Heddle ran away. (“No!”)
    Bravely ran away away. (“I didn’t!”)
    When danger reared it’s ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled. (“no!”)
    Yes, brave Sir Heddle turned about (“I didn’t!”)
    And gallantly he chickened out.
    ****Bravely**** taking (“I never did!”) to his feet,
    He beat a very brave retreat. (“all lies!”)
    Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Heddle! (“I never!”)

  96. heddle says

    Regarding KG in comment 105:

    Why am I not surprised that KG is the type of idiot that near the end of a thread, past the point of diminishing returns, makes a comment (a dumb one, reaffirming the appearance of diminishing returns) and when the target doesn’t answer he declares on this (and at least one other blog) that the target has “run away”?

    Is his/her self-esteem really that low?

    Michael Heath,

    To me you are avoiding the topic. I also disagree those are the only two explanations which fit the data but won’t cover that here, in fact they’re strawmen killed off by any credible Comparative Religion 100-level class

    Um, no chance. Well, let me challenge you. My two explanations that fit the data were 1) I am nuts or 2) My Calvinist theology was more or less correct.

    Now there could be other explanations–I simply stated I did not know of any. You say these two explanations are killed off by any credible Comparative Religion 100-level class. I say bullshit, because:

    1) The prospect that I might have a sort of brain disorder that would account for worshiping a god, some of whose behavior (or commands) I find as a human to be abhorrent, would not be in the purview of Comparative Religion class. And if it were they certainly could not “kill it off” or falsify it.

    2) Please refer me to an Comparative Religion class, at 100 or any level, that has “killed off” Calvinism–apart from defining “credible” as any class that disputes Calvinism. (For that you could go to the teaching of Jimmy Swaggart, who has made it clear that he believes Calvinism is of Satan.) Again you are in unfalsifiable land, so the best you could do is to hope that a class demonstrates that Clavinism is incompatible with the bible taken at face value for the sake of argument. I challenge you to supply an analysis so credible that it has “killed it off.”

    So no, I am not avoiding the topic. I gave the two possibilities as I see them. I am willing to entertain more, but you are wrong in your “Comparative Religion” snark.

  97. KG says

    Heddle, worshipper of evil, I notice you have no reply to my points worth the name. Do you deny that you believe:
    1) That God is holy.
    2) That God commands, and intends to perform, evil actions.
    and that these two beliefs are fundamentally at odds? If you do not, how do you justify to yourself clinging to a belief system that has led you to such obvious absurdity, and to speak plainly, to the abominable wickedness of worshipping a God that you believe commands and performs evil acts?

    Your dichotomy is simply absurd. Sudden conversion experiences are not particularly rare, especially when people have a motive for undergoing them – they frequently happen in prison for example, and not just to Calvinism, or even Christianity. I note you do not dispute the facts as I recall them – that you began attending church without believing, to please your wife/wife-to-be, and that your conversion followed this. Neither a supernatural nor a pathological explanation is in any way required, and it’s a feeble piece of self-justification on your part to pretend that these are the only possibilities you know of when another has just been pointed out to you.

    demonstrates that Clavinism is incompatible with the bible taken at face value

    It’s simply ridiculous to pretend that the Bible can be “taken at face value”. One must decide, for example, which parts to take as historical. You have made clear you take the accounts of genocide in the Book of Joshua in this way, but am I to believe you take the account of the Noachian flood, and the subsequent descent of all humanity from Noah’s descendants, as historical? If so, you are a good deal stupider than you generally appear. If not, you are not taking the Bible at face value, because it gives no indication that these are not intended as accounts of actual events.

  98. KG says

    Is his/her self-esteem really that low?

    I had two motives:

    1) To taunt you into returning and giving a substantive response to my substantive points, or showing (as you did) that you have none.

    2) To poke fun at you – a particularly enjoyable experience as it is quite obvious you have no sense of humour, nor any appreciation of how exquisitely ridiculous your pomposity makes you.

  99. KG says

    Incidentally, heddle, I am further amused to see that either you still follow Pharyngula comment by comment, despite flouncing out in disgust at its feminism; or you are sad enough to search for and follow up any mention of your name. Which is it?

  100. heddle says

    I am further amused to see that either you still follow Pharyngula comment by comment, despite flouncing out in disgust at its feminism; or you are sad enough to search for and follow up any mention of your name. Which is it?

    Sez he who likes to appear smart by accusing others of presenting false dichotomies.

  101. KG says

    OK, heddle, one to you. I realised after posting #109 that you might have someone else follow Pharyngula on your behalf, or have received a divine revelation, and perhaps there are other possibilities still. But your dichotomy remains equally a false one, as I have demonstrated, and you still have no answer either to how you justify clinging to a belief system that leads you to absurd results, how you justify worshipping a god you believe commands and intends evil acts, or how it is possible to take the Bible “at face value”.

  102. KG says

    Another alternative to your dichotomy: that your conversion was indeed brought about by some superhuman agency, but not the God you believe in. This could be Satan, in whose existence and power you presumably believe, or some lesser demon (though surely Satan would come himself rather than sending a subordinate to deceive one as brilliant as yourself), it could be one of the demons of Buddhist mythology, it could be a natural but alien intelligence powerful enough to manipulate human beliefs, for motives we can only guess at. Once you start speculating about superhuman agencies manipulating human thoughts and beliefs, there really is no end to the possibilities, and no way whatever to distinguish between them.

  103. Michael Heath says

    Me earlier:

    To me you are avoiding the topic. I also disagree those are the only two explanations which fit the data but won’t cover that here, in fact they’re strawmen killed off by any credible Comparative Religion 100-level class

    heddle responds:

    Um, no chance. Well, let me challenge you. My two explanations that fit the data were 1) I am nuts or 2) My Calvinist theology was more or less correct.

    Now there could be other explanations–I simply stated I did not know of any. You say these two explanations are killed off by any credible Comparative Religion 100-level class. I say bullshit, because:

    Which is exactly why I now suggest you take a Comparative Religion 100-level class. I assume you are well aware of how closely your assertion fits how so many people distort C.S. Lewis’ most famous assertion, which misconstrues it as an idiotic assertion that Jesus was either nuts or God. That’s a classic example of a false restriction of alternatives that avoids dealing with the most parsimonious possibilities, e.g. claims asserted to Jesus are not all true, that he never made such ostentatious claims. While Lewis’ point was far more cogent, your point here is no better than the distortion of Lewis.

    There are several other explanations, such as a defective type of maturation process from adolescence to quasi-adulthood within the context of having a strong desire to create/maintain familial/communal bonds, often coupled to a sort of insurance policy. This most frequently happens after the young person has spent their wild oats and either has or is at the age of societal child-bearing years. In our culture that would be mid-20s to mid-30s. This sort of motivation often has people conceding abstract weaknesses to their argument as you do here, but only on a surface level which has them effectively avoiding or dwelling on the point in order to avoid adapting to a more truthful, rational position. Here the reason is one of unconscious maturation coupled to an unconscious and conscious desire for the type of community humans in general desire. The fear of death for oneself, partner, and kids also plays strongly, strongly enough people will concede on an abstract level their faith isn’t rational though they don’t adapt their positions given the strength of underlying motivations which commit oneself to such beliefs This is well-known, empirically found, and consistent across all human cultures. Sometimes the path isn’t even religious, we see the maturation portion of this process take place in the military, fraternities, or other close-knit groups where it’s not Christian repentance but still a type of eradication of one’s old-self and then a building-up of a new person within the strictures of the subject group offering their version of responsible adulthood within the confines of communal strictures.

    I’m not claiming this is your motivation, just one of several you failed to consider we empirically know has people clinging to faith and a faith community which exists beyond your list of two possibilities: the fact they’re nuts or their faith is true. The fact you didn’t even know this possibility even exists is a possibility which strongly suggests you are avoiding actually dealing with this subject beyond the shallowest and most abstract level, where it’s most easily to discard with such challenges post-haste.

    heddle responds:

    Please refer me to an Comparative Religion class, at 100 or any level, that has “killed off” Calvinism–apart from defining “credible” as any class that disputes Calvinism.

    I agree 100-level Comparative Religion classes do not kill off Calvinism. I’m not sure what I was trying to convey beyond the fallacy of a false restriction of alternatives you employ here. However, any 100 level class on the historicity of the Bible would falsify Calvinism based on the claim the Bible is the inerrant word of God, simply because many of its claims to what happened have been falsified and the many, many times biblical passages contradict other passages on both historic claims and multiple arguments where these related passages can’t be simultaneously true.

    This is not surprising that you would avoid such conundrums, because on the toughest challenges to the Bible I’ve found it incredibly difficult getting a straight answer from you for what I think are easily understood questions.

    heddle:

    So no, I am not avoiding the topic. I gave the two possibilities as I see them. I am willing to entertain more, but you are wrong in your “Comparative Religion” snark.

    Please blockquote where you’ve answered the following question, because I don’t see it. You also avoided the reasons I previously pointed out why it isn’t a response. In fact you took off on the tangent quoted above as if that’s an answer when that subject is an entirely different one. I admit I offered up this tangent, but as a rebuttal to a previous point you made unrelated to the core question. The question again, paraphrased from repeated questions above:

    How is it moral for a human to celebrate the existence and nature of a god who promises to punishes some humans for infinity?

    Following is your prior response and it in no way responds to my question. It also avoids my response which explains why you avoid the question. heddle writes:

    I have answered this question many times. As far as I know only two explanations fit the data. 1) I am nuts or have some brain disorder, or 2) My Calvinistic theology is true or close to the truth.

    That is, I did not, as I have said many times, make a rational decision for god. It was, at least by appearances, supernatural. One day I had no interest, the next day I had a desire to please god. There was no taking-myself-into-it. I worship god because I want to. But I don’t know why I want to.

    Where I point out why this fails to be a response to my question:

    I didn’t ask you why or how you commit yourself to God, but instead asked how you celebrate his existence and nature given his promise to punish eternally.

    It’s not rocket science to perceive the level of evil contained within an entity who created the conditions where they willfully choose to commit some to eternal punishment. This issue is not a good candidate for arguing, “it’s a mystery” as a way to avoid confronting this question precisely because this isn’t about the nature of God or things unknown, but instead a position and behavior you and other humans take and act out. So it really comes down to my asking you to merely rationalize head-on on how you choose to celebrate an entity who promises eternal suffering for humans. A celebration we would find rightly repulsive if projected onto humans who’ve committed the most heinous acts we’ve become informed about. In spite of the fact those heinous acts are far closer to good or neutral then they are to inflicting an infinity of suffering onto even one human.

    So no heddle, not about God, but instead about you. How you do it? I’m now speculating you haven’t actually thought about it. So if you hadn’t and therefore now that you have, how do you defend what I perceive to be a totally unjustifiable position? Unless of course one takes the same position, ‘who the hell cares about them? As long as it’s not me.’ A complete inability to empathize which is what someone close to me thinks. I tend to think Christians who believe in Hell simply avoid considering the moral implications of an entity who purposefully creates such a destiny for some people. It certainly does not reconcile with many other attributes attributed to God in the Bible even if we apply lax moral standards and in spite of the fact we normally strive for higher moral standards for those more capable of acting to a higher standard. Where here your god seems to need the biggest gimmie of all time so we don’t confront the infinite evil he promises to do.

  104. KG says

    Michael Heath,

    Here’s betting you won’t get a straight answer, any more than I do with a more confrontational and mocking approach.

  105. yippeekayay says

    I’m a Christian and I don’t hate atheists. I hate atheism (along with several other related “isms”), but unlike corporations, isms are not persons for any reason. I think atheists are just ignorant and recalcitrant and often besotted moral imbeciles. They are also often full of bile and theophobia (like you) but that’s to be expected when one personally rejects the Source of life and light. I think most of your examples are bogus, quotes from people who either aren’t Christians at all or are barely Christian in the sense that they may be churched, may even be saved but were educated by the Lame Stream and are all confused in the head because of it. But what’s true for them is true for you and for all Christ-haters like you, the grace of God extends even to you while you live and all you need to do to be saved is to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Good luck with that, bucko.

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